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Senate Judiciary & Labor Committee Advances Hawai‘i Medical Aid in Dying Act

SB1129 now faces Senate floor vote before Crossover to House

(HONOLULU February 28, 2017) Hawaii’s Medical Aid in Dying Act has cleared another hurdle as the Senate Judiciary & Labor Committee (JDL) voted to pass Senate Bill 1129 (Senate Draft 1) out of committee with amendments, following public decision-making on the bill.

Medical aid in dying is an end-of-life medical practice in which a terminally ill, mentally capable individual who has a prognosis of six months or less to live requests, obtains and—if his or her suffering becomes unbearable—self-administers medication that brings about a peaceful death.

The JDL committee unanimously passed the measure on a 4-0 vote, with one member voting with reservations. Committee member Senator Karl Rhoads said, “I’m very pleased. The bill has been thoroughly vetted by two committees now. It is based on the Oregon model which has been in effect for the last 20 years. It has a good balance of needed protections while taking the government out of a decision that most people think the government should not be involved in.”

Betts Cruz of Kaunakakai, Molokai, whose sister moved to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s Death With Dignity law when her ALS became terminal, testified, “This is such an important right for each one of us and Oregon has set the standard for its thorough process. For some folks just knowing the law is in place is enough. For others filling a prescription and having it on hand is sufficient. Others who, like my sister, know they do not want to be on a ventilator or feeding tube are able to CHOOSE and have the right and freedom to die at home, on their own terms. For my sister this was vitally important. For our family it continues to be an extremely important issue.”

SB 1129 now faces a full Senate floor vote; then it will cross over to the House where it will be assigned committees for hearings.

Compassion & Choices Hawai‘i Campaign Manager Mary Steiner praised the Committee, saying, “We are pleased that a second committee has recognized the compelling need for meaningful access to medical aid in dying in Hawai‘i. We thank our many supporters and look forward to continued momentum as we work to provide a much-needed end-of-life-option for Hawaii’s terminally ill adults.”

The people of Hawai‘i have been striving to gain access to a medical aid in dying option for more than 20 years, and C&C Hawai‘i has built a larger-than-ever base of grassroots support. A recent poll shows 80 percent of Hawai‘ivoters support a medical aid in dying law, and the issue has been gaining a groundswell of support among medical and interfaith groups, including the Hawai‘i Medical Association who switched its long-standing opposition to medical aid in dying and recently adopted a neutral stance.